A Union Cabinet meeting that was to consider the contentious nuclear liability Bill on Thursday evening was postponed to Friday, apparently to allow the government to consider the last-minute objections raised by the Bharatiya Janata Party. However, officially, no reason was assigned for the delay.
Top government sources said, “We'll take on board everyone's concerns – please wait till tomorrow.” This indicated the possibility of some changes in the Bill to address the BJP's concerns.
Minister of State for Science and Technology Prithviraj Chavan would, in fact, the sources said, address the press at 1 a.m. after the Cabinet meeting.
On Thursday, after the BJP sprang its surprise objections, Mr. Chavan was closeted with Secretary of the Department of Atomic Energy Srikumar Bannerjee. Soon both met Prime Minister Manmohan Singh. Later, there were further discussions to sort out the matter.
The sources said the BJP earlier agreed to amendments in the bill, proof of which lay in the fact that the Left parties, which had given a dissent note, referred precisely to this amendment in Clause 17: if the Left parties were aware of this amendment, how was it that the BJP did not notice it in the report that was prepared after a broad agreement was reached with all other parties, including the BJP.
They alleged that the highlighting of the changes in Clause 17 in media reports forced the BJP to backtrack on the agreement it reached with the government.